This September, legendary hardcore punk band Dead Kennedys will be reissuing their debut LP Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, featuring a new mix from producer Chris Lord-Alge. One person who is not happy about the reissue is original singer Jello Biafra, who came out against the release in a message posted to the website of the band’s original label founded by Biafra, Alternative Tentacles.
“LISTEN BEFORE YOU BUY!! This was done almost totally behind my back. Intentionally,” Biafra writes. “It was not ‘overseen by the band’, as their press release claims. I was deliberately locked out. Not one person from the band or the labels reached out to me at all. Nor did Chris Lord-Alge, who did the remix. I guess he didn’t care, or value anything I brought to the band at all. Without me those songs wouldn’t exist. In fact, it took several letters from a lawyer for their ‘manager’, Kevin Raleigh, to cough up much detail of what they were up to. So is it really, ‘adding depth without losing any of its original energy’?? Not to my ears!!”
“I hate to say this, but to me it’s….well….kinda boring,” Biafra continues. “Sure, the sound is a little fuller, a little warmer, with a little more bottom end. But the top-end presence and power, so crucial to full-on in your face Punk, sounds rolled off and smoothed over, even muffly. And East Bay Ray, whose ego knows no bounds, actually turned his guitars DOWN! They’re lower and a little muddier than the real thing. It just sounds weak to me, I’m sorry.”
The original version of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables was released on Alternative Tentacles back in 1980, making it one of the first independent punk releases. However, after being sued by his bandmates over a lack of royalty payments, Biafra and Alternative Tentacles lost the rights to the majority of the Dead Kennedys catalogue, including Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. Biafra left the band in 1986, and a new lineup featuring singer Skip Greer began touring in 2001.
Biafra also commented against Lord-Alge’s involvement, calling him “bigtime Hollywood, as big as it gets” and made reference to his previous credits, which included work with “Springsteen, Madonna, Celine Dion, the Stones, Linkin Park, Donny Osmond, The Jonas Brothers, even Rascal Flatts. A closet full of Grammy awards, and patents on some serious studio gear.
Major label Pop Punk too – a Bad Religion, some Green Day, Good Charlotte, SUM 41; and our favorite OG pioneer, Avril Lavigne.”
The statement ends with Biafra taking shots at guitarist East Bay Ray. “Ray is now claiming he produced the whole thing himself, when is [sic] was actually the three of us, credited to Oliver’s wonderful and inspirational cat, Norm. He’s also claiming he originally designed the DK logo! Yeh, and Trump won the election. So if you really want to hear Fresh Fruit at its best, chances are you already have.”
Biafra gave three examples of what he believes are the three best reissues of the album: “1) The UK remaster we made Cherry Red do when we arrived in London in 1980. From the purple-dot back cover onward, look for ‘A Porky Prime Cut’ scratched in the grooves. That’s George Peckham, maybe the best mastering engineer I’ve ever heard. 2) The remaster George Horn and I did at Fantasy in Berkeley, when AT finally got the US license back from Cherry Red. It really holds up well. I’d thought Porky blew him away. Nope.. 3) The short lived Japanese LP on Trio, way back in the early ’80s.”
The new Lord-Agle remix of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables will be available on September 30th. Check out the 2020 remix of ‘Chemical Warfare’ that kickstarted the project down below.